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Bhaichung Bhutia for more Indians in playing XI, more teams in ISL

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia said here that the Football Players Association of India has asked IMG-Reliance to increase the home grown layers to six from the current five in the starting eleven of the Indian Super League.

Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia

The former FPAI president also said here that the association wanted the ISL to increase the teams from the present eight by "one or two teams", at the FPAI's annual awards function at the Cooperage banquet hall last night.

"We want to work with the ISL and I-League. We want more and more teams to join the I-League and ISL. With this, the two competitions will get stronger. We need more teams so that more players get chances," he said.

"We have (also) requested for six Indians in the ISL (against the current norm of five) in the starting eleven," said the former Sikkimese striker with several current footballers, including foreign ones of the I-League sitting in the audience and lapping up his words.

FPAI's vice-president and former India international Abhishek Yadav said the association was striving hard for the betterment of the lot of layers including providing them an easier pathway to earn the coaches' norms and medical insurance.

"We have also decided to start a rehabilitation centre to counsel the footballers who get injured and are frustrated that they are unable to play. We are trying our best but there's always scope for improvement," he said.

"We will also help footballers who want to start coaching camps in their home towns. We do a lot of work but we also have our own set of problems, but we are trying to improve every year," he added.

Bengaluru FC's English coach Ashley Westwood, who was nominated as the winner of the best coaches' award at the function, said he has seen a lot of interest in football in India over the last three years he has been present in the country.

"I have seen many improvements. It's not only cricket now. Professional football is rising. That will help Indian football," he said.

Later at a press conference, Westwood sounded cautious about his chances of continuing in his present position with the I-League team in the Garden City.

"Yes, I have still got a contract till the 31st of May and today is the 25th of April," he said. When pressed further whether he would stay with the club next season, he added, "Hopefully yes."

"There are no concerns. The club is a professional club. We do things correctly. I work for a very good owner (Parth Jindal) and a very good management. The only concern to be honest is that I am an ambitious coach. Like any player, if Manchester United come in for (FPAI Indian Player of the Year) Jeje (Lalpekhlua), he is not going to stay at Mohun Bagan and that's football," he said candidly.

Asked about the Indian national team's poor ranking on the FIFA chart (162 as of now), Westwood was diplomatic and said it was "disrespectful" for him to comment on national coach Stephen Constantine.

"It's not my job. I don't want to insult the coach. He (Stephen Constantine) doesn't comment on Bengaluru FC and I don't comment on India. It is disrespectful. It's his and Mr. Patel's business, not mine. I'll do my job and let them do theirs. It's not under my umbrella, it's under Mr.
Constantine's. He's working hard and doing a good job. That's fine with me," said the 39-year-old.

Asked for a response whether he would take up the national team coach's job if it were offered to him, Westwood said, "Again, I wouldn't disrespect my club. I've got a contract to coach Bengaluru FC. To comment on jobs with managers in jobs is really distasteful. I wouldn't like it if
someone said that I could do a good job at Bengaluru FC because that is my job."

He also brushed aside questions whether he saw the practical side of a possible merger between I-League and the Indian Super League which has been bandied about by the All India Football Federation.

"Honestly, I don't make rules here. I'm just a coach. I coach football games, and business details and mergers ' I'm not really interested in them, to be honest. I'm just doing my job."

He, however, batted for a longer duration national league. "I would like to coach as many matches as possible, so longer the league and more teams, better it is for me as it will be more competitive. I would like to play different teams, week in week out. That's just what we do. "Players like to play as many games as possible and we like to coach as many games as possible. Again, you won't catch me commenting anything scandalous," he declared.

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